We were sad to learn recently that friend and board member of Manchester Pride, Vanilla owner Steph Kay, would be leaving us this year. Steph has shown the organisation some solid support over the years and both her and Vanilla are an absolute asset to Manchester's Gay Village. It is only fair then, we thought, that we have a nice catch-up with Steph now she is stepping down from the board about how she got involved with Manchester Pride, her plans for the future and what it is she loves about our city and the community.
So Steph, tell us about how you got involved with Manchester Pride and why?
My best friend Rod sadly died of HIV 13 years ago;it was so awful. I decided i wanted to get more involved with local HIV charities and support small groups that were making an actual difference - Manchester Pride was the obvious choice.
What are your favourite things about Manchester and its gay community?
Manchester has a compact scene; it's so accessible, a massive variety of venues in walkable distance, with sexy bars and super clubs. I've worked all over the UK and no city compares. I'm very passionate about our great Gay Village and Manchester as a whole.
Of the years you have been with the organisation, do you have any top Manchester Pride moments?
Hitting £1M for charity after this year's 21st birthday was fantastic! I also loved meeting the Gossip and Human League and a fantastic speech from Michelle Read (George House Trust) some years ago. Above all, the opportunity to meet thousands of people from all over the world, who love Manchester and what we do here, has to be the overall highlight. It's that sense of positivity that's all around during the Big Weekend - it's a buzz - and I wouldn't change that feeling for the world!
Although you will be stepping down from Manchester Pride this year, who would be your dream act for the Big Weekend in the future?
Easy: Annie Lennox - she is an amazing role model.
What will you miss most about being on the board?
The people - but not the politics! Being a part of the Board of Trustees has been a great experience and I am so happy to have been a part of something as special as Manchester Pride. I hope that my contribution has been received well by fellow board members, and I'm lucky to have made some great friends through the experience as well!
If you could give a message to anyone who has yet to go to a Manchester Pride but is intrigued by it, what would it be?
Manchester Pride is a 72 hour marathon of all things gay! The entertainment content of the festival is only part of what happens over the weekend; all village venues push the boat out and produce fabulous and wild parties every evening - grab yourself an early bird ticket in May for just £15! What a bargain! There is meaning in the message with Manchester Pride too - as we learn about through the Candlelit Vigil hosted by the George House Trust on the evening of the bank holiday Monday, HIV/AIDS is still among us and there are people struggling to live with it. Manchester Pride helps raise money to support these people to make living situations easier. We are also sending the message to homophobic men and women that we are here - loud and proud - and fully support one another as a community. To celebrate this, help worthy causes and have one giant party at the same time? Why wouldn't you support Manchester Pride each year?